One year ago we talked to Dan Marr the Atlanta Thrashers Director of Amateur Scouting and Player Development about the state of the Thrashers system (Part 1 here, Part 2 here). When I spoke to him, Marr had just completed the NHL Combine and mentioned that the Thrashers were still looking at a few players at various camps.
BWA: It would be great if we could run through the guys in the system like we did last spring at the Under-18 and you were kind enough to give us an update on where the prospects stood. Sometimes it can be hard to follow these guys from Atlanta because we are far away from the developmental leagues. But first of all, let's talk about the team's first round pick last year Evander Kane. I know you were very excited about acquiring him on draft day.
DM: He met any personal expectations that I had for him. He's a guy with high standards and he lived up to his standards. The best is yet to come. He wasn't put into a lot of pressure filled situations, such as high end power play time. He was used in certain situations such as when the team needed a goal or at the end of the game and he would usually deliver a hit or create a scoring chance. I could see that they had some confidence in him and the older guys on the team had confidence in him. I would check with our staff every once in a while and they said he was holding his own and they were impressed with him. I think Evander has impressed everybody and I fully expect him to be a franchise player for the Thrashers going forward.
BWA: Let's talk about the two second round picks from last year. You were fortunate to have two picks and you took too very good players. Jeremy Morin racked up quite a few points in the OHL. I know skating was a developmental concern, how is he doing and what are your thoughts on his season.
DM: Well obviously he had a phenomenal year. We know he's a scorer and he went out and he did what he does best. But the things that we were really liked hearing from Kitchener was that they found him to be a very high character player, he was a leader on that team and a hard worker. Now it can be the case that if you're not the best skater you can compensate somehow with your work ethic, then it's not really a liability. I wouldn't go so far as to say that his skating is a liability and he has made some improvement. He has been working on it and right now he's off at a skating camp on his own dime trying to improve himself. If he puts in a terrific summer, I wouldn't surprised at anything that happens come [NHL] Training Camp time. Usually you don't expect young guys to come in and crack the lineup, but if he puts in the type of summer that he is capable of he could make some people pause and consider him [for the NHL roster].
Carl Klingberg--he's a European player who plays a North American style. He's one of those guys who just doesn't like to take 'no' for an answer on a play. So he makes things happen. He provides energy for the team and he has a decent touch with the puck. He is someone who will crash and bang and when he gets the puck he knows what to do with it. He's a talented athlete and a decent hockey player in his own right. He's one of those guys who adds value to a team and coaches find ways to use him.
BWA: Klingberg has just signed with the Thrashers and I understand his contract will have him go back to Sweden if he doesn't make the Thrashers. He is just 19, do you think he physically mature enough to handle the NHL?
DM: Yes he is. Physically he can handle the load. He's a mature kid. It always comes down to whether you think if a kid gets a job what will his contribution level be [in the NHL]? The NHL just signed a transfer agreement with Sweden, so their kids have the same rules as juniors--you're either in the NHL or returned to your club that you were drafted from.
BWA: Next I'd like to get your take on some players the Thrashers acquired through trades. Patrice Cormier came in the Kovalchuk deal and was under suspension. He hasn't played much since Atlanta added him. What are your thoughts on him as a potential NHLer?
DM: You love to have the guy as a teammate because he plays with his emotions on his sleeve. He's a leader in his own right, he's got to get past that unfortunate incident from last year and move on in his hockey career. We see a big rugged player who brings intangibles. He is a hard guy to play against and a hard guy to check, but in his own right he has enough of a skill level that if you put him out there with two skilled players he's going contribute quite a bit to a line and to your hockey club.
BWA: He was named Captain of Team Canada at World Juniors, that's certainly a statement about how coaches view his leadership abilities.
DM: He's a guy that leads both on and off the ice. With his conditioning and on the ice. He plays with a passion and he brings some grittiness. You've talking about Milan Lucic-type of players--a young guy who brings that passion to your hockey team and it can be infectious--that energy and that attitude rub off on everyone else and each player picks their game up half-a-step.
BWA: How about Vishnevskiy? I know he has been in the AHL lately and perhaps you haven't seen him in a while. He put up nearly a point per game as a defenseman in the Quebec League when he was drafted
DM: I haven't seen him play in the American Hockey League, but I remember him. He needed to get stronger, the physical game is not his strength. He's a really stronger skater, very fluid and he can move the puck quickly. He has a good shot.
DM: We knew Chris was a very technically sound goalie--much like Moose--and we wanted to work on a couple of things such as his lateral movement and crease movement in terms of being more reflexive and less mechanical. He made BIG, BIG strides in that area. He's a kid who plays big in the net and he's learned how to use his size. He had a real good year and going forward we think we have a guy who has a chance to play [in the NHL].
Eddie is more of reflex athletic goalie--it is good to have both types of prospects in your organization--he had mono which he had at our camp and delayed him at the start of the season. He never really got back to 100% until after Christmas and then he took off and finished the year phenomenally strong. He's got that quickness and he also uses his size well. Who is to say what will happen down the road, but we might just have a #1 guy there.
BWA: Will the Thrashers struggle to find starts for these guys as they turn pro?
DM: They're both eligible to play another season as over-age juniors and that is a viable option. Everything is open right now with the new sheriff in town. NHL Training camp will be big for these guys as well as making an initial impression at Development Camp.
Part 2 will appear tomorrow.